The agreement reached between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore is receiving mixed reactions, but Pyongyang sees it as a win.
North Korea’s state media outlets, the Korean Central News Agency and Rodong Sinmun, each reported the results of the summit on Wednesday, including the full text of the agreement. Rodong Sinmun dedicated four pages of its Wednesday edition to the summit, including 33 color photos.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) and US President Donald Trump (right) in Singapore. (Rodong Sinmun)
“Expressing his understanding of it, Trump expressed his intention to halt the US-South Korea joint military exercises, which the DPRK side regards as provocation, over a period of good-will dialogue between the DPRK and the US, offer security guarantees to the DPRK and lift sanctions against it along with advance in improving the mutual relationship through dialogue and negotiation,” the KCNA reported in English on Wednesday, using the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It also added that Kim and Trump “had the shared recognition to the effect that it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The US has called for complete and swift denuclearization out of concern that the subsequent verification process could be drawn out. But the North has been asking for a phased approach in dismantling its nuclear weapons program.
The summit agreement only mentions that Kim and Trump affirmed their commitment to “complete” denuclearization, falling short of the previous US demand for a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the North.
While the rest of the world focused on the denuclearization aspect of the agreement, North Korea focused on concessions made by Trump, including the suspension of the joint US-South Korea military drills announced at a press conference after the summit. North Korea views the joint military exercises as dress rehearsals for invasion. North Korea also tied the issue of current sanctions against its country to the US’ offer of security guarantees.
Unlike the North which hailed the summit as a “success” and an opening of a new chapter in US-North Korea ties, experts noted that the summit agreement amounts to a small step toward progress in bilateral relations and it is too early to discuss measures to lift sanctions.
“North Korea may wish to open its economy and normalize diplomatic relations with the US, but such goals can be achieved only if the sanctions against the country are lifted,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at National Korea Diplomatic Academy.
“Halting the US-South Korea joint military exercises and establishing solid hotlines will be a start in terms of a security guarantee, but clear progress in denuclearization is an essential precondition to US cooperation,” he added.
In a press briefing held after the summit, Trump said that sanctions on North Korea would remain until nuclear weapons are “no longer an issue.”
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun also released a photo of Kim shaking hands with Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, who called for adoption of the “Libya model” for the dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The North had lambasted Bolton for raising the model, which it believes led to the demise of former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
South Korean media suspect that Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, who is also vice director of the Central Committee’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, had orchestrated the North’s media reports. Kim accompanied her brother on his visit to Singapore.
Observing the media’s shift in tone, experts expect North Korea’s hostile campaign against the US to dwindle.
“North Korea has used development of its nuclear program as its ‘omnipotent weapon,’ but now it will use the resolution of US-North Korea animosity as its new weapon,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, during a debate session at the Korea Press Center in Singapore.
“The Sentosa agreement is expected to act as a turnaround that will make a difference.”